Daily flights from Fort Wayne to Philadelphia and Charlotte, North Carolina, were announced Monday in a regional economic effort to connect directly with the East Coast.
The U.S. Airways Express flights will begin Oct. 2, twice daily to Philadelphia and once daily to Charlotte. City and county officials and regional partners who pushed for the flights described the move as needed for area economic development.
Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry said the fights also position the city as a destination. In March the Fort Wayne City Council kicked in up to $600,000 to help induce an airline to offer daily flights to an East Coast travel hub.
Monday’s announcement was made by the Fort Wayne-Allen County Airport Authority, Greater Fort Wayne Inc. and Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership at Grand Wayne Center. Representatives from each said bringing the routes to Fort Wayne International Airport was a joint effort.
“What a great announcement,” said Allen County Commissioner Nelson Peters. “We are going places in this community…Welcome to everyone in Philadelphia and Charlotte, North Carolina, to Fort Wayne, Indiana.”
Former City Councilman Tim Pape, who was among those pushing the move, said while other communities are losing flights and therefore less connectivity to outside business, gaining two flights is a major achievement.
“This is about our future,” he said. “This is about bringing jobs to northeast Indiana.”
The city’s $600,000 over two years is to help create a minimum revenue guarantee for whichever airline began operating daily flights to an East Coast destination.
If the route was at first unprofitable, the minimum revenue guarantee would ensure the airline did not lose money. The minimum revenue guarantee is part of a $2.5 million incentive package built around a $600,000 federal grant.
Greater Fort Wayne Inc. and the Airport Authority are each contributing $500,000 toward the package, Allen County is contributing $150,000, the Indiana Economic Development Corp. has offered $100,000 and the Regional Opportunities Council $50,000.
Airport Authority Executive Director Scott Hinderman told the Fort Wayne City Council in March that if flights are full, the minimum revenue guarantee will not be needed.
Several speakers Monday encouraged residents to use the new air service. In a statement the Airport Authority noted that “the success of the routes lies in the hands of northeast Indiana consumers. It is a use or lose philosophy.”
To add a festive touch to Monday’s announcement Hinderman brought forward a man dressed in Revolutionary War garb carrying a ledger and asked the crowd to sign a pledge to book flights to the new destinations.